Hi Louis and Kal,
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...to think of yi as “mind,” independent of the intended somatic action would miss the point....Yi implies a unity of intention and action. Yi “includes both the image or idea of a thing and the intention to act which is inseparable from it. . . .”</font>
Louis, I think these are excellent point that you put quite accurately. I also think, however, that they are always easy to misunderstand. For many years, I thought people were speaking of Yi as something you put into your body or movements. It was merely about putting "awareness" into a body part or thinking about a certain thing intensely. I would have interpreted the unity you refer to above as something achieved through an act of will that bends reality to my desires. I think such an image is subtlely, but crucially off the mark, as you make clear throughout your post.
Either you or the Wiki article you linked to mentioned the sobriety test of spreading your arms wide, closing your eyes, and touching your nose with an index finger by swinging one arm horizontally inward. When I do this, I have a distinct taste of what I think of as Yi. It is not just the proprioception, but the proprioception linked towards a goal. It does not have all the characteristics Yi should have in Taijiquan, but it seems to have the kernel.
The sensation is even truer to what I feel doing the form, if I do the exercise with my eyes open. By an act of will, I can use proprioception throughout my arm and relate the sensation to the action of touching my nose. This relationship, more than the act of will, is what I think of as Yi. If I lose the sense of any part of my arm, then my Yi becomes weak and I need to rely on my eyes to guide the movement and lose even further any sense of the Jin in my arm.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As such, yi does not stop with an initial idea, image, or mental impulse. It includes the feedback experience of the neurons, muscles, joints, and bones interacting with gravity, the immediate environment, and/or an opponent.</font>
Yes, I like it a lot. To add to your idea a little more, I think you even want to feel why the feedback makes any difference. In other words, what are you using the feedback for? E.g., to fight gravity to rise high?, to defy gravity to gain distance?, or to use gravity to aid your movement? All are possible and relevant in different aspects of the form. Similarly, is your touch maximized to receive a sensation from the opponent, or to give one? All the ideas are entwined, but the sharper you make your Yi, the more choices and the more decisions you realize you have. The more your refine your Yi, the simpler those choices and decisions seem to be and the more rest seems to take care of itself.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As Fu Zhongwen put it, “In using the consciousness (yi) to thread to a given position, the consciousness arrives, then the jin arrives</font>
I have read this before, but reading the word "threading" now really made me sit up and pay attention in this context. If I go back to the nose-touching exercise. I think the Yi can be felt if you try to feel the location of your entire arm throughout the movement, using your proprioception. I think the sensation of Yi is stronger if you relax your muscles and do the same. However, I think the sensation only truly threads throughout when you relax and lengthen the tendons throughout the movement, because then you are forced to maintain a connection between the relaxing and lengthening and the motion towards your nose. There is a sensation of equilibrium you are forced to monitor and adjust from moment to moment. If you get down to the sensation in the fingers, you even feel the impact on the joints in your index finger and in how you direct the positioning of your other fingers.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">yi is what keeps practice authentic</font>
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This brings to mind the philosophical term found in the ‘Yang Forty’ text that we discussed recently: cheng, often translated “sincerity.”...As I mentioned before, Roger Ames (and before him, D.C. Lau) translates cheng as “creativity,” because it implies a continuous adaptive response. The Song thinker Zhu Xi combined the terms “cheng” and “yi” in his commentary to the Greater Learning (Da Xue). Graham explains that by chengyi, Zhu Xi meant “integrating the intentions,” or making intention accord with reality as it unfolds.</font>
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for my understanding, I don’t mean to discount the role of visualization, particularly in learning and perfecting the form. But I think one must go beyond visual models and concentrate on developing and monitoring a constant adaptive response, moment-by-moment, in order for practice to be authentic.</font>
I think the emphasis on cheng
, creativity, and authenticity is making more sense to me now. By mentioning geometry in my earlier post, I was attempting to mine this territory for meaning.
If I talk only of moving my arm in a perfect circle, I think I am missing something and stopping merely at what you have called "ideation." If I instead feel what the circling does for the purpose of my arm in the relevant context, I then calibrate its movement to maximize this feeling. There is a feedback loop between what my mind conceives to be the favorable properties of a circle and the positioning of my arm. I do not use my mind to bend reality to my will, but rather to see into its nature and take better advantage of its properties. This seems to me intensely a type of pursuit congenial to Zhuxi's ge wu
("investigation of things"). The possibility of morality in movement is something I would not have thought of before.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In this sense, I think yi is close to “feeling,” as in playing music with feeling, or acting a part with feeling, or making a speech with feeling.</font>
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>“Yi is better translated as ‘intent’—in the sense of something external and manifest in movement. This is apparent because the Xunzi attributes ‘intentionality’ to a dance:
“Thus, yi is not an internal mental picture at all. As in the orderly movement of the dance, yi is a manifest and measurable tending or movement.”</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I am glad you wrote this, because musical metaphors have been coming strongly to my mind of late. For instance, a person can talk about "playing with feeling." However, simply having feeling is not enough. The feeling must show on the outside in a concrete way. But merely copying the outside is also not enough. Any musician (or actor) knows that it is incredibly difficult to copy someone else's "feeling" without changing your inside. When you have the right thing inside that motivates and manifests what is on the outside, then you play or act with feeling. This is Yi, and proprioception is perhaps the means you use to calibrate it.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think of the geometries as a kind of magnetic template that I can allow the internal and external to tend towards. There's a mental visualization component but also a felt sense of my body being drawn towards a new way of moving. It's palpable and I can feel the way intending makes things happen physically.</font>
Kal, your use of the phrases, "magnetic template," "tend towards," and "body being drawn" resonates strongly with me. I think I had my first inkling of this way of thinking when I was first exposed to the way Yang Zhenduo explains fangsong
and "relaxation." I found it both jarring and intensely interesting, because it was a completely fresh idea to me.
I hesitated to put my understanding into practice because it seemed quite alien to anything I had done before and seemed to contradict almost all that I had read and understood before. I remember doing the form once and deciding that it exhibited questionable morality for me not to give the idea the full benefit of the doubt, at least for a few seconds. I think it was during the transition into Fist Under Elbow. All of a sudden, it felt like my body was possessed. My limbs seemed to fill out the posture by themselves. My mind established the "magnetic template" your referred to and just sat back, watched, and drank in the sensation. It was weird, but extremely exciting. I have been hooked ever since.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>I can think about the geometry of arcs and curves and by linking my intention towards movement with these shapes and patterns, I can facilitate the felt sense of moving more smoothly no matter what has changed between my last practice and today's practice.
This also resonates strongly with me. If I am doing my form in the way I like to, I feel as if I am recreating every posture from scratch every time. It never feels the same. I feel saddened sometimes when I hear people talk of the form as if it were just mindless repetition of the same thing or as if it were merely a serious of complicated jumping jacks or calesthenics, repeated day after day. In my view, every posture should feel like an act of creation that surprises in the newness of its feel.
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 01-01-2007).]
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 01-01-2007).]